Language and Name Mechanics

For information on capitalization, punctuation, and abbreviation, please see The Chicago Manual of Style, LWGMS's standard reference. For spelling, word division, and helpful usage notes, refer to Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary.

LWGMS-Specific Styles

School Name Usage
When referring to the official name of the school use Lake Washington Girls Middle School.
The abbreviation LWGMS may be used after the first use of the official name of the school. When indicating possession, repeat the s after using an apostrophe, as in LWGMS's.
L-Dub may be used as a familiar use of the school "nickname".

Protocol for Referring to Alumnae
Alumna [uh-luhm-nuh] refers to a female only; the female plural is alumnae [uh-luhm-nee, -nahy].
Alumnus refers to a male only; the male plural is alumni.
Mixed groups are referred to as alumni.

Alum is not a person. It is “a potassium aluminum sulfate, or an ammonium aluminum sulfate, used especially as an emetic and as an astringent and styptic,” not phrases we usually use to describe most of our alumnae.

LWGMS does not use periods when referring to abbreviated degrees: BA, MBA, MFE, PhD.

Graduation Years
When writing a graduation year, use the last two digits of the year, with an apostrophe before the class year:
Jane Doe '11

When addressing the parent of an LWGMS graduate, use a P the last two digits of the year, with an apostrophe before the class year:
John Doe P'11

General Writing Styles

Do not abbreviate street addresses in running text. Exceptions are the abbreviates NW, NE, SE, and SW used in some street addresses.


Not adviser.


Affect, Effect
Affect is a verb meaning to influence.
How will these changes affect the situation?

Effect is almost always used as a noun meaning result.
What will be the effect of these changes?


As a reminder, LWGMS does use the serial comma (comma before the last item in a series):
The LWGMS community consists of faculty, students, and staff.


A colon may be used in the following ways:

To introduce quoted material.
The student said: "I will turn in my paper immediately."

To introduce a passage either in or out of quotation marks.
The following invitation was received via email:

To introduce a series.
The students will tackle three projects: city renovations, park improvements, and urban landscaping.

To separate the clauses of a compound sentence when the second clause is an illustration, a restatement, or an example of the first.
The soccer team faced one major obstacle: They didn't have a ball.

Avoid overusing colons for dramatic effect.

Do not use a colon for a list preceded by the word includes.
NOT— The list of students includes: Jane, Mary, Sue, and Vera.


Follow the month-day-year sequence when writing dates in text. The year is set off by commas.
The events of December 7, 1941, will long live in infamy.

BUT if the day is not specified then there is no comma before or after the year.
The events of December 1941 will long live in infamy.

Do not write the date as an ordinal number.
December 7, not December 7th



An ellipsis is a set of three periods ( . . . ) indicating an omission. Each period should have a single space on either side, except when adjacent to a quotation mark, in which case there should be no space.

In informal writing, an ellipsis can be used to represent a trailing off of thought.
If only she had...Oh, it doesn’t matter now.

An ellipsis can also indicate hesitation, though in this case the punctuation is more accurately described as suspension points.
I wasn’t really...well, what I mean...see, the thing is...I didn’t mean it.

If you’re quoting someone but only want part of that quote, use an ellipsis to show that you’ve taken some words out (your reader trusts that you’ve kept the original meaning of the words, even though you’ve taken them out of their original context).

“The battle, due to foul weather and lack of leadership, was lost” →“The battle...was lost.”

“I wore my new silver, strapless, floor-length, silk dress and matching shoes.” → “I wore my new...dress and matching shoes.”


Em-dash and en-dash

An em-dash is typically used to act as a comma or parenthesis to separate out phrases—or even just a word—in a sentence for various reasons (i.e. an appositive). Examples where an em-dash should be used:
School is based on the three R’s—reading, writing, and ’rithemtic.
Against all odds, Pete—the unluckiest man alive—won the lottery.
I sense something; a presence I've not felt since—

An en-dash is used to connect values in a range or that are related. A good rule is to use it when you're expressing a "to" relationship. Examples where an en-dash should be used:
in years 1939–1945
pages 31–32 may be relevant
New York beat Los Angeles 98–95


Fewer, Less

Use fewer for things you can count
fewer steps

and less for things you measure.
less time

Less can also be used as a adverb.
less successful ideas — meaning "ideas that are less successful than others."

Fewer can only be used as an adjective.
fewer successful ideas — meaning "fewer ideas that are successful."


seventh-grade student
10th-grade student
grade six
grades 10 to 12
low-grade radiation
grade A beef

sixth grader
10th grader

Capitalize, no quotes. For plurals, add 's. Plus and minus signs (use an en dash) are acceptable when the meaning is clear.
She got an A minus.
She got two F's last year.
He was disappointed with the C– he received on his final exam.


The following are some general guidelines for hyphen usage. See entries for individual words for further explanations.

Nationality combinations: Hyphenate most ethnicity combinations when used as an adjective. Do not hyphenate noun combinations.
African-American history
discrimination against Irish Americans in the 19th century

Exception: Latin American is never hyphenated.

Numbers: from twenty-one to ninety-nine, when spelled out, are hyphenated.

Fractions: Hyphenate a fraction when it is used as a adjective (e.g., a two-thirds majority). Write as two words when used as a noun (e.g. two thirds of the participants).

X-to-y combinations: 16-to-32-year-olds

Invented verbs: Sorenstam three-putted on the ninth green.

Suspended hyphens: They climbed the third- and fourth-highest peaks.


Parentheses ()
Put periods outside a parenthesis at the end of a sentence if the inserted text is part of a larger sentence, and inside if the inserted text stands independently.
President Jackson addressed the graduates (text on page 78).
All of the scholarship winners were honored at the dinner. (A complete list appears in the event program.)

When a parenthetical sentence is included in another sentence, omit the period inside the parentheses.
The baseball game (she had been listening to it on the radio) was now in extra innings.

Put caption directions in parentheses, unless the direction is the first word in the sentence.
Head of School Patti Hearn (left) presents the award to Jane Doe.
Left, Hearn speaks to the sixth grade class.

The closing parenthesis goes inside the closing quotation mark when the parenthetical element is part of the quotation.
She wrote, "We can meet on Friday (May 1)," although she had no intention of joining the group.

The closing parenthesis goes outside the closing quotation mark when the quotation is part of the parenthetical element.
Jane (also known as "funny lady") was the life of the party.


How to handle possessives for words ending in s or an s sound.

Plural Common Nouns Ending in S
the students' questions
the teachers' headaches

Singular Common Nouns Ending in S
the duchess's hat
the duchess's style

Proper Nouns Ending in S
Socrates's tea
the Obamas' garden

Nouns Plural in Form, Singular in Meaning
the series' actors
the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' history


Numbers between one and nine should be spelled out in text.
Of the seven children in the group, four were girls.

Numbers 10 and above should be figures in text.
There were 12 LWGMS representatives at the meeting.

However, within a sentence or paragraph, numbers in the same category should be treated alike. If numerals are used for one of the numbers, all numerals should be used for consistency sake.
There are 20 graduate students in the biology department, 5 in philosophy, and 17 in mathematics.

At the beginning of a sentence, ALL numbers are spelled out.
Five years from now, the project will be complete.

All the above rules also apply to ordinal numbers.
This is the third time I've told you.
He walked the stairs to the 12th floor.

Do not write the date as an ordinal number.
December 7, NOT December 7th

The number preceding the word "percent" or the symbol "%" is always a figure. Avoid the use of the percent sign in running text.
Of the people in attendance, 23 percent were under the age of 18.
The figures showed a 3 percent increase over last year.


Period (.)
Use a single space following a period at the end of a sentence.


Phone numbers
In general publications, when using school phone numbers in running text, use the complete phone number including area code in the following format: 206.709.3800.


School subjects
Capitalize names of specific courses and proper nouns; lowercase otherwise.
She turned in her paper for Science class.
She plans to major in engineering.


Semicolons can be used in compound sentences.
I went to a soccer game; she went to music class.

Divisions between phrases that already have commas should be made with a semicolon.
The girls went hiking in Montana, North Dakota, and Idaho; skiing in California and Colorado; and kayaking in Washington and Oregon.

Semicolons and colons always go outside the closing quotation mark (single or double).
You said, "Her grades are in the mail"; however, I have not yet received them.


Use the two-letter abbreviation for states. However, in many cases, you should spell out the entire state.


Use figures for clock time and for hours, minutes, seconds, days, weeks, months and years greater than nine.
3 p.m.; 5:30 a.m.; 6 o'clock; 18 years

Spell out for nine or less, except when a fraction is connected to a whole number or in combination with figures above nine.
She is nine years old.
She lived there for nine years.
The movie lasted three hours.
The movie lasted 2 1/2 hours.
The senator spoke for 2 days and 13 hours.

Avoid such redundancies as 10 o'clock p.m. and 12 noon. Midnight is the end of the day, not the beginning. Do not use 12 a.m. or 12 p.m.. Write noon or midnight.


Web Addresses
When a web address contains “www,” it is not necessary to include the “http://.” You may also omit the “www” (optional).


Use figures.
the 1800s
March 1968
the year 2000

An academic year straddles two calendar years. Drop the first two digits of the second year and connect with an en dash.